Tonga A has left Canberra with a victory after downing the ACT XV 29-20 during the third week of the Pacific Rugby Cup.
The competition is in some respects a 'Super Rugby B' tournament, featuring development teams from the Australian franchises.
Tonga led from start to finish, scoring tries from right across the park to make it none-from-two for the ACT XV against international opposition in 2014.
Captain Matt Hawke said the loss was disappointing but his side would bounce back to face the Samoan A team next Saturday at Canberra Stadium in what shapes as a cracking curtain raiser to the UC Brumbies v Waratahs match.
“They managed to set the tone early and we weren’t able to real them in unfortunately,” Hawke said.
“There were enough opportunities there for us to win the game but we just couldn’t capitalise which is disappointing. Credit to Tonga they showed plenty of skill and their defence was also solid.
“We’ve got a shorter turnaround until the next match, this Saturday against Samoa so it’s important the boys recover properly and have we have a good session together later in the week.”
Tonga shot out to a 10-0 lead early thanks to Kilifi Latu’s try in the corner and the sharp shooting of inside-centre Viliami Hakalo who missed only two kicks at goal all afternoon.
The ACT stuck back with a penalty to Rod Iona minutes later, but celebrations were short lived with Latu crossing for his second in 10 minutes, Hakalo again adding the extras. At 17-3 it looked like the Tongans would run away with the match, but a second Rod Iona try kept them within distance at 17-6.
Tonga scored again thanks to fullback Otulea Katoa, who streaked away 40 metres to touch down in the left corner. The conversion attempt failed to raise the flags, but the Tongans were firmly in the driver’s seat and enjoying the bulk of possession and momentum.
Off broken play Tonga scored their third try just before half time, only for the ACT to strike back immediately when Jack Whetton broke through to seal five points. Iona converted and the two teams hit the sheds for half time with the score 22-13.
10 minutes into the second half Tonga laid on a clever try to flyhalf Sione Kite, their fourth of the match, to put the result almost out of doubt at 29-13.
But it was Iona who had the last laugh, darting under the posts to register the final five-point of the game and the following conversion, closing the match down 29-20.